Nurturing new wine drinkers

Yesterday’s article in the Business Day took a positive standpoint on the role of local wine consumption in the coming year, based on comments by Wines of South Africa’s Su Birch. Local consumption and support is extremely important, as it provides some stability in what is a highly temperamental and competitive market.

However over the last ten years wine consumption in South Africa has dropped by approximately 2.5 litres per capita, despite an increase in supermarket wine availability, an apparent consumer uptake in ‘new media’ wine initiatives, the addition of hundreds of new cellars and producers, and the growth in popularity of wine tourism.¬†The reasons for this decrease can be debated at length and while it is important to recognise the reasons, it is even more important that the industry focus on how to grow the number of consumers in the target market.

South African wine marketers are very adept at coming up with innovative ways to move wine drinkers from across from competitors’ brands to theirs. There does, however, seems to be a lack of creative initiatives to encourage¬†new wine drinkers in South Africa. If you go to wine events or shows you tend to see the same people. Marketers can’t really say ‘drink more wine’. It is a morally sensitive issue. So instead we choose to say “don’t drink theirs, drink ours!” How about encouraging consumers to “Introduce a friend to your favourite wine”.

The ever-decreasing amount being spent on traditional advertising by the big players is still in the same media channels. Advertising in WINE magazine or wine-flavoured lifestyle publications is talking to the converted. It is aiming to shift wine spending as opposed to increasing it. There have been a number of innovative online and social media opportunities developing, with Anel Grobler and Jan Laubscher at 406 Media or the team at Under the Influence good examples of this.

Most wine commentators are active online, although there seems to be a limited amount of real online wine journalism coming out of South Africa. It is interesting to see the brands that are engaging actively with these protagonists, and the success that they seem to be enjoying.

When reports on the market are circulated, the norm is to compare wine’s share of the market with that of beer, cider and other alcoholic beverages.This is a short-sighted way to consider the strategy required to increase domestic consumption. Marketers need to take the consumption of wine into different social settings and lifestyle events, where they can identify their brand with consumers that traditional wine communications are not reaching.

Having a Facebook page, Twitter feed and a blog are all fair and well (and necessary), but that will not make you stand out. A wine brand marketing their product at a cricket test match will; translating their cellar door experience to an off-site event will; collaboration with products that are relevant to consumers in unexplored segments of market will.

I’d like to see more wine brands working together in 2011, to shift and to broaden the focus of marketing communications. The wineries need to take more responsibility for this and stop expecting generic wine industry bodies to take care of it. These bodies are developed as a function of a collaborative approach and more of this on the ground will help to make more of the South African population appreciate the incredible wines that are right on their doorstep.

One Response to “Nurturing new wine drinkers”

  1. Anel says:

    Thanks for the mention Chris. Wine is much like music. People tend to connect good times with music and when they hear that specific song in future, it will take them back to the past. Same with wine. If they had a good experience at the cellar door they’ll be more likely to pick that specific brand on the shelf the next time they buy wine at the store.

    The wine industry should see other liquor brands like beer as their friend and not as the enemy. They should accept the fact that people enjoy beer, brandy or whisky while they are braaing but when it comes to eating the chops, wine is King.

    I also believe that there’s definitely a demand for wine when it comes to social events like music festivals and night clubs. Consumers don’t drink wine in clubs. Why? Because the ONE wine available at the bar taste like shit and the bubbly is unaffordable. Suppliers should get their brands to where the party’s happening and not just focus on restaurants. People go to clubs and bars to drink and you can’t expect them to drink wine if there’s none. The young market consume way more than the older crowd and that’s where the wine focus must shift to. Tell them that it’s hip (and more healthy) to drink wine and they’ll drink it.